Networking tips for Young Professionals

A guest blog with Cyndee Woolley, APR, a consultant in public relations and the author of Building Brand [You]. For more information, visit www.BuildingBrandYou.com.

In speaking with seasoned executives, one of the biggest lessons they learned through the course of their career is the value of building a network. Often young professionals are thrown into the waters and take years to hone their networking skills – losing valuable relationships along the way. Hopefully, these tips will help you stand out from the crowd and build your network.

Take time to think through your brand
With limited professional experience, many young professionals haven’t taken the time to develop a brand for themselves. Instead, they have a haphazard, thrown-together image that may appear polished externally but slows them down professionally. Your brand is more than a sharp suit and fancy business card. It is about developing a clear vision of your ideal future and weaving in important elements like your values and priorities to reflect a solid brand that people can understand.

Target your networking
It is important to be open and receptive to new ideas and possible work relationships. After all, many opportunities come from unexpected sources. However, with a realistic understanding of your time limitations – both professionally and personally – it is perfectly reasonable to approach your networking efforts in the same way that you do a sales project. Focus your efforts on the people who can help advance your career skills and lead you to your ideal life. Beyond sales prospects, consider networking with these three types of individuals:
• Mentors – Keep your eye out for mentors. These individuals are living the life that you would like to enjoy, or perhaps have a skill that you would like to develop. Don’t ask them to be your mentor, but ask them for coffee or lunch to learn about what they do.
• Peers – It is important to have a network of peers that are in the same industry as you. They will be your resource for referrals to potential vendors and possibly clients that they can’t handle. By working together, you can both develop your professional skills and advance your career.
• Inspirational Relationships – In a competitive atmosphere, there can be great pressure to perform that can lead to burnout and frustration. Inspirational relationships can be as simple as belonging to church, Rotary, or Kiwanis. But, don’t overlook that best friend who always leaves you charged up and ready to take on the world or the child in your life who helps you see things from another perspective. Keep these relationships strong during the good times so that you can pick each other up during the really hard times.

Learn about professional etiquette
I had dinner with a young professional that worked in a very casual industry. It wasn’t surprising to see him in khakis shorts and a t-shirt instead of a suit and tie. But, when we ate dinner, he slurped his coffee and spoke with his mouth full – complete with little hunks of food flying out at me. This doesn’t just happen with young professionals, I’ve known a few adults that I refuse to have a meal without protective eyewear!
Take the time to learn about the nuances of professional networking. Small details like carrying your cold, wet drink in your left hand to keep your right (handshaking) hand clean and dry can make a big difference in how you are remembered.

Plan out some common conversation points
Networking can be intimidating, especially in that awkward silence when you don’t know what to say next. Remember, that other person is probably feeling the same way. Take the time to plan out a few questions or conversation points that will help you connect personally and kill the silence. These conversation points could be simple questions like:
• Tell me about the most exciting thing that happened to you this week. Be prepared to share one of your accomplishments too.
• What projects are you working on right now? This will give you more insight into their professional experience than just their job title.
• If you weren’t here right now, what would you be doing? Hopefully this opens up some personal hobbies to share interest in.
• Did you hear about….? Watch the news and keep abreast of what is going on in your industry for these types of questions.

Listen and observe before you speak
This tip has been shared frequently as it relates to social media, but it still applies in your professional networking. As a young professional, you might be eager to share your advice, projects, or experiences with perfect strangers in a networking setting. While you think you are being fun and friendly, other people might consider you abrasive and rude. Take the time to listen and observe the culture of the group that you are in before you rattle on and on. It will help you gauge what is socially acceptable in the group and gain the respect of the other members.

Learn more about building your brand at Cyndee Woolley’s course Building Brand [You].

It’s Showtime! One Key to Continual Motivation

Marshall Goldsmith is today’s guest blogger. Marshall is the three-time top-ranked executive coach in the world and one of the top 10 most influential business thinkers by Thinkers50.

Let me start with two well-known phrases:

  1. All the world’s a stage” is the phrase that begins a monologue from William Shakespeare’s As You like It.
  2. The show must go on” is a phrase in show business, meaning that regardless of what happens, whatever show has been planned still has to be staged for the waiting patrons.

Until recently, I always had a dilemma regarding the “stage” of business. As an executive educator, who helps successful leaders achieve a positive change in behavior, I, in a way, teach people how to act.

So here’s the dilemma: When is acting being professional? When is acting being phony? I want to help leaders learn how to be great performers, but I never believe that they should be phonies. How can I, as a coach, understand the difference?

And what makes you “buy” your boss’s, colleague’s, subordinate’s, or even a salesperson’s “act?” The answer is we buy someone’s act when they truly love their profession. We are with them when their “act” is part of the fabric of who, and what they are – and we can feel it in our interactions with them.

Let me give you two divergent examples.

First, one of the greatest leaders I know is Frances Hesselbein, the former executive director of the Girl Scouts of America and now chairman of the Leader to Leader Institute. I am not alone in my assessment of her talents. Peter Drucker once noted that she was perhaps the most effective executive he had ever met. As a tribute to her leadership skills, President Clinton awarded Frances with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award that can be given to a U.S. civilian.

I am deeply honored that Frances is also one of my best friends. Like all humans, Frances faces the same problems we all face. She has lived through health problems, tragedies with friends, and family issues. And, like all great professionals, when it is time for Frances to work, she is always there. I have seen her turn down an invitation from the U.S. president because she had already committed to a talk (at no fee) for a non-profit organization in a small town. When she makes a commitment, if it is humanly possible to be there, she delivers. It doesn’t matter that a “better deal” came along later. She not only makes an appearance, she is upbeat and positive, she is inspirational, and she gets the job done.

For Frances, the show must go on, and she takes the stage with love, heart, and passion.  She believes in the core of her soul in what she is doing and anyone around her feels it and knows it. Simply put, everyone buys her act – because her act is truly Frances.

My second example is my client Ted, who helped me answer my dilemma question. I worked with him for a year, trying to help him fit in a corporate culture where he really didn’t belong. At the end of the year, I finally said, “Why don’t you leave? You are so miserable that you are starting to depress me!”

He saw the light, left the company, and is now doing something he loves. There was nothing wrong with the company. There was nothing wrong with Ted. He just didn’t belong there. It wasn’t him.

In the case of Ted, when his show had to go on, he was simply going through the motions. When he took the stage, people around him did not truly buy his act – and Ted did not really buy his own act.

I learned through Ted that despite his greatest efforts, he was being phony when he did not love his work.  And loving your work is what makes great performers rise to the occasion.

On Broadway – Their Act Is No Act

This is why great Broadway performers are able to pour their hearts into each production. At times they overcome headaches, family problems, and more. Because, the show must go on.

Like great actors, inspirational leaders sometimes need to be consummate performers. When they need to motivate and inspire people, they do it. And we are inspired (or buy their act) because they are 100 percent invested in their work and the cause.

Believe in Your Act

If you are in the right job in the right company, and you are learning how to perform to the best of your ability, you are being a true professional. If you are in the wrong job in the wrong company and you learn to act so that you can better fit in, you are just being a better phony. It still isn’t you out there.

Today, Ted is a lot happier. He spends his time thinking up creative ideas in his new company, and he’s having a ball. He is not only adding value for the company, he is also adding value for the world.

Think about your job. As a professional, is your job consistent with the person you want to be?

If the answer is “yes”, be like Frances Hesselbein. Put on a great show. Be the consummate professional. Learn to keep developing your ability to perform, so you can get even better than you are today. If you love what you do, a great coach might even help you get better.

Every day we all take the stage. And, when you take the stage and the show must go on – are people buying your act? And, most of all are you buying your own act?

If the answer is “no”, change jobs as soon as you can. Why bother to become a better phony? Even if you do get a coach and learn to modify your behavior, it won’t count for much. Why? It won’t really be you.

Learn more about how to stay motivated at work with Marshall’s SoundviewPro course Engaging Ourselves at Work and in Life.

Disruptive Innovation: Is it Too Disruptive for Your Organization?

A guest blog by Bryan Mattimore and Gary Fraser, Principals of
The Growth Engine Company.

As an innovation agency, Growth Engine is often asked by our clients to help them create “disruptive innovations.” Our clients know that being first to market a breakthrough innovation can create highly-attractive margins and a first mover advantage difficult for competitors to overcome.

However, when we dig deeper into our clients’ wish for “disruptive innovation,” we often discover they don’t want disruptive innovations at all. What they really want is lower-risk new products (or services) that can be created by their existing R & D group, manufactured on their current lines or systems, marketed under their current brands, and distributed through their existing systems of distribution.

The chance of a truly disruptive innovation coming from all these “existing” ways of doing business however is close to nil. The reality is that disruptive innovations are not only disruptive to the marketplace, but can be highly disruptive to the organization as well.

Clients come to see that when they pursue a truly disruptive idea, because of the time, money, and talent required to make that idea a success within an organization’s current structure… it can be a daunting, even seemingly-impossible challenge. Disruptive innovations, more often than not, are:
– extremely time-consuming
– highly ambiguous in the early stages
– fraught with great organizational resistance and political risk
…and often require
– unique and new-to-the-organization talents and competencies
– significant investments
– outside partnerships/relationships and
– a longer-term orientation and commitment

So what have the marketers charged with “innovating the new” at their organization done? The simple answer is that they are working hard to pursue less risky, less organizationally-disruptive innovations that still address important un-met consumer and customer needs.

Growth Engine’s work, on both sides of the disruptive innovation fence, has led us to discover an interesting, even counter-intuitive paradox: disruptive ideas are relatively easy to conceive of – and extremely difficult to successfully innovate. Less disruptive innovations – almost always marketed under an existing brand, but still meeting an important consumer need – are extremely difficult to conceive, and easier to market.

As we know, there are tremendous marketing and media cost efficiencies in leveraging a brand’s current equity. One of the challenges however, is that the brand’s equity can also restrict how far a brand can be extended.

So, how can a creative marketer resolve the seemingly paradoxical challenge of innovating within and for an established brand while at the same time creating something truly unique and valuable to a consumer? The answer lies in using a combination of better, more strategically-focused idea generation with an iterative concept development process in which the consumer is a true partner.
And that is exactly what Growth Engine’s two-hour course Soundview Pro: “Growing Established Brands,” is all about! This course combines:

State-of-the-art ideation techniques that help innovators create exciting breakthroughs that can be marketed under existing brands with  Creative consumer research methodologies that insure these breakthrough concepts address important and compelling consumer needs.

Want to know more? Click on this link Growing Established Brands to get started.

Put ‘Moxie’ Into Your Leadership

 

Today’s guest blog is from John Baldoni, leadership development chair at N2Growth, first published at Forbes.

Once upon a time when we admired someone for their grit and determination we said they had moxie. It’s an old-fashioned word popularized in movies of the Thirties and Forties about those who battled the odds. It’s a word that has always stuck with me, and for that reason I decided to focus my newest book on what it means to have guts, gumption and perseverance – moxie!

Leaders operate in challenging circumstances. They need to advocate for their ideas as well as for the people in the teams they lead. It takes an individual with the courage of convictions to push forward, sometimes against big obstacles, in order to achieve success.

Leaders operate in challenging circumstances. They need to advocate for their ideas as well as for the people in the teams they lead. It takes an individual with the courage of convictions to push forward, sometimes against big obstacles, in order to achieve success.

Leaders must also persevere. There is no shame in being knocked down; it is what happens next that defines your character as well as how others perceive you. Roll over in defeat and no one will want to follow your lead. Get back up again and continue the struggle and people will pay attention to you.

At the same time, savvy leaders learn from experience. They may have been flattened for good reason. Their ideas may not have been well developed, or their perceptions of themselves was overblown. Too much ego and not enough awareness!

MOXIE spelled out

And so in exploring the concept of moxie I realized that if I turned it into an acronym it would illuminate what I believe how leaders should behave. Specifically, leaders must demonstrate five key attributes:

Mindfulness – being self-aware as well as situationally aware.

Opportunity – seeing possibilities where others see obstacles.

X-Factor – demonstrating character in all they do.

Innovation – applying creativity to risk and reward.

Engagement – working with others to achieve mutually beneficial goals.

Put these attributes together and you have an approach to leadership that will provide a way forward for leaders. In my experience in working with executives at every level, those who have succeeded demonstrate attributes of moxie in various ways.

First they are mindful they know themselves and they are willing to listen to others. They seldom accept the status quo. When it comes to opportunities they investigate. They also look at problems as opportunities. That is, if we can solve the problem we can solve bigger issues. They are individuals of character; they possess the right stuff of leadership. They innovate by pushing themselves, and especially their colleagues, to think about thinking differently and doing differently.

Most important perhaps they realize that as individuals they can achieve very little. They must mobilize others to action. Not with their words but through their actions. That starts by creating conditions for people to succeed.

Those with moxie are those who do not accept defeat easily. Rather they view it as a learning experience. For that reason they are people of determination. They also have grit, a willingness to buckle down when times are tough. And they are resilient types. And so while moxie might be word more popular in previous generations, it is as timely today as ever.

To learn more about being a top leader, try John Baldoni’s course, Do-It-Yourself Leadership, at SoundviewPro.

Is your brand engaging online?

This guest blog features Cyndee Woolley, APR, an author and public relations consultant. You can email questions to cydnee@c2-com.com or visit www.BuildingBrandYou.com.

There are three certainties in life… death, taxes, and your Facebook newsfeed will continue to change!

I’ve spoken to many small business owners who obsess with jumping onto the next social media trend to stay visible and gain awareness. But, when you look at their existing social media accounts, there are less than 500 fans or followers who are not engaging with any of their posts.

Lack of engagement often comes back to three core questions:
• Do you have a brand that your fans understand?
• Do you have specific key messages that your customers or donors need to know?
• And, do you know how to share those key messages in an emotionally charged way to build relationships?

You do have a brand – in person and online
We all have a brand. Unfortunately, many businesses create confusing brand identities by trying to be everything to everyone. If your customers don’t understand you and what benefit you bring them, they will never engage with you.

Your brand is a reflection of every experience a person expects of you, and his or her emotional reaction to that experience. This experience transcends your logo and includes first impressions – even when they find you online.

Over 80% of US consumers have made a purchase online and according to Hubspot, 71% are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals. With a mini-computer in their back pocket, you customers can engage immediately or write you off in a split second.

Your brand is expressed through many elements that demonstrate exactly who you are and how people can relate to you. Are you formal or casual? Do you serve young individuals or retired couples? Are you cutting -edge and creative, or solid and steady?

Take time to assess the brand you hope to project, then take a look at your digital assets to see if they really project that image.

• First and most important in this evaluation is simply opening your website up on a smart phone or tablet. The most impressive site could be losing customers if it takes more than a few seconds to load on your customer’s smart phone.
• Do you have links to your social media accounts, customer reviews and any tutorial reviews? Studies are confirming that the millennial generation is more engaged with “how-to” videos and dynamic content. They also want to see that their friends like your brand, so the social integration is a key element for success.
• Do the visual elements of your social media accounts compliment your brand or cut your head off? As technology improves and digital load times reduce, the visual element of the story has become more and more important.

Learn more about building your brand at Cyndee Woolley’s SoundviewPro course: Building Brand [You] .

9 Essential Principles to Create, Lead, and Sustain

Today’s guest blog is from Faisal Hoque, founder of Shadoka. Originally Published at  Fast Company.

With the cascade of new technologies and social changes, we are constantly challenged to spark creativity, drive innovation, and ensure sustainability.

What are the remedies? How do we work with ourselves and others?

The newest problems of the world find solutions in the oldest timeless practices like mindfulness, authenticity, and devotion—because everything connects.

Connectivity is a sense of journey, to the sense of purpose—it is an individual, lonely pursuit and a collective, companionable one at the same time.

Our individual, interpersonal, and organizational working lives all interconnect. By examining these connections, we learn new ways to create, innovate, adapt, and lead.

From our new book Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability, let me dig a little deeper on how we can work with ourselves and others by connecting seemingly disparate dots.

How do we connect daily life with who we are?

1. Understanding is the foundation. The better we understand the nature of the world, the better we can move in the world. The better we understand the nature of ourselves, the better we can move within ourselves. This is why generations of thinkers and doers have told us in a multitude of ways to know ourselves—an intrapersonal intimacy that is the fruit of a long process.

2. Understanding leads to authenticity. When you know yourself, you can act with a confidence that is your own. This implies a rawness and vulnerability to the people around you, which is a very good thing, as that vulnerability is the foundation of the relationships that define us.

3. Devotion is mindfulness, mindfulness is devotion. You do not become strong by lifting one gigantic weight. You do not understand yourself by reading one book or attending one workshop. It is a daily practice of devotion. Devotion is our sustainable resource. With it we can day by day improve ourselves, our teams, and our world.

How do we inspire and lead inside and outside of our organizations?

We need to explore understanding that leads to long-term sustainability, the way to act in a manner that promotes mutual flourishing, and how, crucially, a leader can urge us along this process.

1. Give people freedom. People need freedom to do their best work, people need to feel they’re able to bring all of their effort into the task, which requires an open, autonomy-oriented culture.

2. Give people structure. But this is not anarchy; with freedom comes responsibility. Responsibility can be ensured with both quantitative and qualitative methods and springs from a thriving culture.

3. Curate talent. When we assemble lasting organizations, we’re gathering people around a common cause. When the right people are gathered in the right way, the whole becomes greater—perhaps much greater—than the sum of its parts. Gathering the right people at the right time in their lives, in the right combination of talents, is curation.

How do we to generate ideas, grounded decisions, and long-lasting value?

We need to arrange our lives and our organizations in a way that leads to long-term value creation: surveying the subtle and not so subtle arts of idea generation, decision-making, and creating continuous value.

1. Ideas arise from curiosity. Experiences are the fuel of creativity. Curiosity is the thirst for new experiences. That passion can be systematized.

2. We make better decisions after mapping them. When we make a decision, we tend to leave our understanding unexamined, whether as individuals or as organizations. Mapping them out lets us have a more granular understanding of how we work.

3. To create value over the long term, build platforms.The most sustainable way to create value is to continually invest in our capabilities both as individuals and as organizations. The most core of these capabilities is the understanding we have of ourselves and others.

This isn’t just a quick fix for our next financial quarter; this is how we will succeed in the long run. It is a systemization of our art, science, business, and spirituality.

To learn more about entrepreneurship from Faisal Hoque, sign up for his course How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset at SoundviewPro.

What Can Cricket Teach Us About Culture?

Today’s guest blog features Brian Bedford, co-founder of MillerBedford Executive Solutions.

I know cricket isn’t high on most US sports lovers’ lists, but the England national team management recently faced a dilemma we often see in our consulting practice. It concerned a star batsman, Kevin Pietersen. Pietersen is one of world cricket’s most charismatic players, with great statistics, and capable of outstanding brilliance when in the right frame of mind; he can be a game-changer, but he can also be petulant, difficult, self-absorbed, and on occasion, the opposite of a team player, with all the disruption that creates.

So the dilemma was, should the national team management keep selecting Pietersen, and keep his potential to produce a match-winning performance, or put the team culture first, and get rid of the disruption he caused?

The English sports media gave lots of advice, and it was all over the map; on the one hand, the advice was “You have to find a way to keep him in the fold; he’s a superstar, he can win a match for you single-handed, and has done many times, so you have to find a way to keep him.” On the other hand, the advice was “You have to put the team first, and you can’t allow one person to behave in a way that damages the team, and get away with it, no matter how good he is.”

We see the same dilemma all the time in our consulting practice with businesses, so often that we have a name for it; we call it the “Good ‘Ol Joe” syndrome. We describe this in our book, “Culture Without Accountability-WTF? What’s The Fix?” Many organizations have a “Good ‘Ol Joe” – Joe is the guy the CEO can always rely on to come up with the extra sales the company needs at the end of the quarter, and keep Wall Street happy. Trouble is, Joe is a huge disruption; he treats people like dirt, screams and yells, ruins meetings, and employees go out of their way to avoid him, to the point of leaving to get away from him. But he gets a pass on his behavior, because the CEO feels he’s indispensable. Who knows what damage he creates outside the company with customers or others?

It’s the same decision English cricket faced. What would you do?
For us, the decision is clear; the company, and the team, must come first. If you want to establish a winning culture, the behaviors needed to establish that culture are of critical importance. Once you start making exceptions, it’s a slippery slope, and the company or the team can fall apart.

English cricket felt the same way, and Pietersen is gone. In the short term, he’ll be missed, but in the long term, the team will be better. Same with the “Good ‘Ol Joes”; they either conform to the required behavior standards, and change their behavior, or take the consequences. If you want your culture to stick, the needs of the culture must always come first.

You can learn more about corporate culture at Brian Bedford’s course on SoundviewPro: Installing an Accountability-Based Culture for Success.